Difference between revisions of "Gardens and Isolation"

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Revision as of 17:31, 1 May 2020

This is a written work discussing personal projects and studies in horticulture, and how passionate interests can make a difference in the way we handle negative situations. It isn't all I had wanted it to be, but I think it still delivers the message I wanted to get across.

🌻Gardens and Isolation🌻
By Rick Hills

Some of us are able to handle social isolation better than others. Many people can’t deal with being cooped up for more than a day. On the opposite side, those coping with depression especially will know how difficult it can be to leave the safe familiarity of your own room, and harder still to go outside your home. However, it’s a vicious cycle. Isolating yourself from the outside world while depressed tends only to make things worse. Currently we are all feeling the effects of social isolation as we take necessary precautions to avoid spreading and contracting COVID-19. As social creatures, we need to find ways to cope with the lack of contact. I want to use this essay as a way to help motivate other people who are struggling right now to look for positive outlets and passion projects, whether they resemble mine or are completely different. Even though these may just provide small moments of happiness or relief, those moments make a difference in our ability to manage isolation.

Before Spring break, I was taking a horticulture class that I was really invested in. Finding out that I wouldn’t be able to finish the class was upsetting, but I realized that this free time gave me the opportunity to begin my own independent studies and projects. In the beginning, it was a lot of hard work preparing beds for seeds and starters. Being able to pick out what you want to grow is one of the most fun parts though, so it isn’t all menial labor. I tried to picture beautiful, healthy, flourishing plants in the barren dirt as I worked, and it was motivating. In my first bed, I had planted tomatoes, basil, and white strawberries. More recently I planted catnip, peppermint, and cayenne peppers.

After my first few plants were in the ground, I decided I wanted to take on another challenge and clean out an even bigger bed to start a faerie garden. Faerie gardens are generally small personal flower gardens that can serve a number of purposes. Some people simply enjoy the aesthetic value, others recognize the potential to attract beloved pollinators such as butterflies and honeybees. Those who believe in the fae can use them as a space to commune with the spirits, give them a place to rest, and even ask for favors in return for offerings left in the garden. Personally, I fall into all of these categories, but even if you don’t it’s still fun to have a garden like this.

I buried elephant ear bulbs across the very back of the bed, and scattered a variety of flower seeds in the front. These included marigolds, forget-me-nots, butterfly milkweed, and zinnias. In the early stages of growth, it can be hard to tell what are sprouting flowers and what are weeds. I’ve had to be careful to make sure I don’t pull up any flowers by mistake when removing weeds. With the frequent rain we’ve been having this April, hopefully everything will begin to bloom faster. Hose water does its job, but a good rain shower gives plants a little something that we just can’t recreate.

Something particularly nice about working in a garden is being able to observe life in the small-scale world. It’s almost impossible not to find snails, worms, grubs, beetles, or other small creatures when you’re digging in the dirt, especially after it rains. You can also find treasures like snail shells, cool stones, and insect wings. There is so much happening inside the Earth that we can discover. When I find treasures while I’m gardening, it’s even more special because I wasn’t looking for them; they came to me. If I find an empty snail shell, or an interesting rock, I like to put them in pots with other plants I’m growing. I have also put them in terrarium jars where I keep moss in a closed ecosystem.

Growing plants means sacrificing your time and energy to give back to the Earth, and to nurture something. It also means nurturing yourself, because caring for the Earth is ultimately an act of self care. Tending to plants, or any living thing, takes a great amount of empathy, patience, dedication, and commitment. For me, knowing that my plants won’t grow unless I get up and take care of them motivates me to do so. The responsibility of keeping something alive can be a powerful incentive to leave the comforts of your isolated bubble. As much as I would like to stay in my room all day long and do nothing productive, when you make a commitment you have to stick to it.

It’s upsetting when you work really hard and still feel like you’ve gotten nowhere. I think a lot of people discover something new that they love and hope it will make their problems go away; I certainly did. Maybe it does work out that way for some people, but I don’t think it’s realistic to expect that. After pushing myself and doing my best, I realized that the same emptiness I had felt before was still there. Gardening is fun and I enjoy it very much, but it can’t heal me altogether. I still don’t know what will, but I think it’s important that I keep doing things I like even if they aren’t a cure-all for my unhappiness. Maybe there isn’t one definite solution, and you have to build up a collection of things over time to help you get better.

I’m going to keep on gardening for as long as I can and keep finding ways to help myself heal. Take care of yourself, even if you can only do so much at a time. Every little thing you do for yourself is a step in the right direction. As much as it feels like self love makes me selfish, I know that isn’t actually true. You can’t expect to be good to anyone else if you can’t be good to yourself. So go and try new things, spitball ideas even if they don’t work out, and you’ll surely find something that makes you feel content to be yourself.
Rick Hills 2020
House Liberal Arts House
Advisor Rachel Doss
Plans TCC, Early childhood development, Environmental science
Advice Don't be too hard on yourself. If you don't meet your own expectations, or anyone else's, that isn't necessarily the worst thing in the world. Room for improvement is just that. You do what you can do, and you keep going. If someone else is accomplishing a lot, but you can't do as much, that doesn't make you look bad. No one should expect you to do more than you can.
Type Portfolio
Subject Gardening, Growth, Identity

How It Began

The first project I had decided on was to make a book of simple pleasures, in order to create something that could have a positive impact on both me and other people. In a way I came back around to that same theme although centralized on gardening and horticulture.

How It Changed

Things absolutely did not go as planned, and I changed my project idea multiple times. In the end, a combination of procrastination, executive dysfunction, depression, and inability to focus left me with nothing to work with and little time to put something together. The events of the past month made it even more difficult, and the final product is a bit underwhelming. However, the actual gardening that I'm doing has been fulfilling and enriching, and I'm happy that I could at least share that.


The project is nothing like I pictured it would be in the beginning, but I think that's okay. The purpose of capstone was to get us to do something new, and, in kind of an indirect way, I have done that. Hopefully that will be enough. Nothing about this end to my senior year is really satisfying or perfect; it's messy and frustrating and not at all what I expected. But I still did my best, no matter how my best is received.